The newest commissioner appointed to the Nevada Athletic Commission (NAC) works for the former owners of the UFC.
Staci Alonso, appointed to the commission by Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval in December, is an executive vice president at Station Casinos, the casino group owned by Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta, per her LinkedIn page. The Fertittas sold their majority stake in the UFC, which is regulated and sanctioned by the NAC in Nevada, to WME-IMG in July for more than $4 billion.
The Fertittas still own a “passive minority interest” in the UFC, according to a WME-IMG press release sent out July 11. Forbes estimates each brother still owns about 8 percent of the promotion. Lorenzo Fertitta has helped the UFC broker a deal as recently as few months ago when Chris Weidman flew into Las Vegas to negotiate a fight contract for UFC 205 in November.
Alonso was appointed when Michon Martin stepped down. Alonso’s LinkedIn page says she’s the executive vice president of innovation and administration at Station Casinos.
The NAC is the official combat sports sanctioning body of the state of Nevada, overseen by the state government. The commission licenses promoters and fighters and has final say over matchmaking. The commission also issues sanctions to fighters and promoters in doping and disciplinary cases, as voted on by the commissioners.
“The Commission administers the State laws and regulations governing unarmed combat for the protection of the public and to ensure the health and safety of the contestants,” reads part of the NAC’s mission statement.
UFC parent company Zuffa and Station Casinos were both campaign donors for Sandoval, per public records. Sandoval’s Election Night party in 2014 was held at Red Rock Resort Las Vegas, part of the Station Casinos group owned by the Fertitta family.
“The Governor appointed Staci Alonso to the Nevada State Athletic Commission,” Sandoval’s spokesperson Mari St. Martin said in a statement. “The Commission has stringent rules in place to handle possible conflicts of interest and they receive regular advice from the Attorney General’s Office. All questions pertaining to such issues should be directed to the Commission.”
In a statement to MMA Fighting, Nevada commission executive director Bob Bennett wrote that all commissioners “will continue to do everything in their power to avoid any appearance of impropriety and to avoid conflicts by publicly disclosing material issues and, where an actual conflict exists, by abstaining from Commission votes.”
“We have no comment on any assertion of a general theoretical conflict on the part of any member of the Commission,” Bennett’s statement reads. “Conflict analysis is fact specific and, ultimately, is the responsibility of the individual Commission members. All Commission members must undertake due diligence and make a determination under Nevada’s conflict of interest laws.
“By every account, Commissioner Alonso is a person of integrity and, as members of the Commission have done historically, members will continue to do everything in their power to avoid any appearance of impropriety and to avoid conflicts by publicly disclosing material issues and, where an actual conflict exists, by abstaining from Commission votes. Such is critical to maintaining the gold standard of the Nevada State Athletic Commission.”